Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Stonewall (E 116)


1. Stonewall welcomes the opportunity to contribute written evidence to the Education Bill Committee. We are a national organisation working across Great Britain that has campaigned for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people since 1989. This brief submission focuses on the provisions in the Bill that are intended to help to address homophobic bullying in schools, an area where we have expertise. We’d be happy to offer further evidence if the Committee would find it helpful.

2. Stonewall’s major Education for All campaign works to tackle homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools in various ways. Groundbreaking Stonewall research has demonstrated the prevalence of homophobic bullying. Almost two thirds of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience homophobic bullying in school, while nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers say children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, currently experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools. Further detail on our research is set out below.

3. We have produced widely-used resources for schools, developed in collaboration with pupils and teachers, including practical teaching materials across seven curriculum areas. We have experience of successful working with a range of schools on these issues, including faith schools and Academies. Through our Education Champions programme Stonewall supports local authorities at a strategic level, helping their local schools to prevent and tackle homophobic bullying.

4. In summary, Stonewall believes that:

· The commitment across all the main political parties to addressing the serious issue of homophobic bullying is encouraging, including the pledge by the Coalition Government in their programme of work to ‘help schools tackle bullying in schools, especially homophobic bullying.’

· Homophobic bullying is a widespread and pressing issue which can affect any young person, regardless of sexual orientation, in all schools – including faith schools, Academies and free schools. It is vital that all schools commit to acknowledging and tackling homophobic bullying if it is not to compromise countless young people’s life chances and pupil attainment.

· Stonewall welcomes the ministerial commitment to using the new Education Bill to tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying, as reflected in comments by Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State, at Second Reading.

‘The coalition Government are committed to tackling all forms of bullying in our schools, including homophobic bullying, and the Bill makes a start by tackling the root cause of bullying - poor behaviour in our schools.’ (Hansard, 8 February 2011)

· We also welcome the wider programme of work to address the issue indicated in the Schools White Paper 2010 and we are committed to working with politicians from all the main parties to urgently address bullying in all types of schools.

Stonewall’s research into homophobic bullying in schools

5. The School Report – the experience of young gay people in Britain’s schools – was published in 2006. It is based on 1145 responses from young people at secondary school. The survey was conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit on behalf of Stonewall. Key findings:

· Homophobic bullying is almost endemic in Britain's schools. Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying. Seventy five per cent of young gay people attending faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying.

· Even if gay pupils are not directly experiencing bullying, they are learning in an environment where homophobic language and comments are commonplace. Ninety eight per cent of young gay people hear the phrases "that’s so gay" or "you’re so gay" in school, and over four fifths hear such comments often or frequently.

· Ninety seven per cent of pupils hear other insulting homophobic remarks, such as "poof", "dyke", "rug-muncher", "queer" and "bender". Over seven in ten gay pupils hear those phrases used often or frequently.

· Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of young gay people have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong in their school. In schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, gay young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied.

· Over half of lesbian and gay pupils don’t feel able to be themselves at school. Thirty five per cent of gay pupils do not feel safe or accepted at school.

6. The Teacher’s Report (2009) was based on YouGov polling of more than 2000 teachers and non-teaching staff in both primary and secondary schools across Great Britain. Key findings:

· Nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers (44 per cent) say children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, currently experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools.

· Secondary school teachers say that homophobic bullying is the second most frequent form of bullying (happening ‘very often’ or ‘often’) after bullying because of weight and three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity.

· In addition to direct bullying, 95 per cent of secondary school teachers and three quarters of primary school teachers report hearing the phrases ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in their schools. Eight in ten secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers report hearing other insulting homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’.

· Nine in ten teachers and non-teaching staff at secondary and primary schools have never received any specific training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying.

· More than a quarter of secondary school staff (28 per cent) would not feel confident in supporting a pupil who decided to come out to them as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Two in five would not feel confident in providing pupils with information, advice and guidance on lesbian and gay issues.

· Half of secondary school teachers who are aware of homophobic bullying in their schools say the vast majority of incidents go unreported.

April 2011